2021, R, 90 min. Directed by Nikole Beckwith. Starring atti Harrison, Ed Helms, Julio Torres, Tig Notaro, Nora Dunn, Fred Melamed, Sufe Bradshaw, Rosalind Chao.
REVIEWED By Josh Kupecki, Fri., April 23, 2021
There’s a thread of subversion woven through Nikole Beckwith’s comedy Together Together that declares itself in the font of the opening credits. It’s the Windsor font, better known as “the Woody Allen font,” a typeface Allen has used almost exclusively since Annie Hall. That Beckwith’s film, about the relationship between fortysomething Matt (Helms) and twentysomething Anna (Harrison) appears to mirror Allen’s thematic obsessions concerning neurotic middle-aged men chasing after women half their age, furthers the ruse. But these expectations signified by cinematic shorthand are constantly thwarted, as Beckwith’s narrative employs not only thematic feints, but also some well placed jabs, at one point at Allen himself.
Matt is single, living in San Francisco, and whose personal history the film keeps decidedly ambiguous. He desperately wants to be a father, so he has enlisted the aid of Anna as a surrogate for his child. His sperm, an unknown donor’s egg, plus her womb (and 15 grand) facilitate his endeavor, and the film charts the duo’s relationship, from the first interview to the delivery. This is not Anna’s first pregnancy, having given up a baby for adoption in her teens, causing a rift with her family. Anna charts her pregnancy via a spreadsheet, shared with Matt and their counselor Madeleine (Notaro). Chronicling the two characters' developing platonic relationship, Matt’s awkward nervousness and clumsy overbearingness at odds with Anna’s attempt at treating the situation as a transactional arrangement becomes the main theme here, and most of the comedy derives from identifying, to themselves and to others in society, the nature and subsequent protocols of their roles.
Because what Together Together is really about, what Beckwith has cleverly and earnestly created here is a film about what we spend our entire lives doing: navigating boundaries. Watching Matt and Anna discover the parameters of their friendship, and the impact they have on each other’s lives, is quite rewarding. Both Helms and Harrison nail the fluid nature of the tonal shifts as their bond tightens, loosens, and tightens once more. And while the jaunty piano soundtrack, Anna’s coffee shop job (with snarky coworker), and familiar faces in supporting roles make it easy to see the film as having a very recognizable indie DNA, that is perhaps another subversion Beckwith is playing with here, for inside of this conventional package lurks some sly surprises.